Al Qaeda Suspect Held in Britain

The Washington Post

A suspected al Qaeda operative was deported from Zambia to Britain on Sunday and was immediately arrested on U.S. warrants alleging that he helped plan a terrorist training camp in Oregon in 1999.

British authorities earlier said they also wanted to question Haroon Rashid Aswat, 31, about the July 7 bombings on London’s transit system that killed 56 people, including the four presumed bombers, and wounded 700.

Aswat is from the same area of north-central England as several of the suspected July 7 bombers, and police have said they were investigating whether Aswat had made cell phone calls to some of them.

A British police statement about Aswat’s arrest mentioned only the Oregon case, and it remained unclear whether Aswat was still suspected of involvement in the London bombings. Aswat, a British-born man of Indian descent, was scheduled to appear in a London court Monday morning.

Aswat was apprehended in Zambia on July 20, and both the United States and Britain expressed interest in extraditing him. British police said Sunday that U.S. officials are now requesting his extradition from Britain.

U.S. authorities said Aswat helped another man, James Ujaama, scout for land and plan a training camp in Bly, Ore., that was allegedly going to be used to prepare radical Muslim recruits to be sent to fight in Afghanistan. The camp was never built, and Ujaama pleaded guilty in the case two years ago.

U.S. officials also allege that Aswat was linked to another man involved in the Ujaama case, Abu Hamza Masri, a radical Muslim cleric who is in jail in Britain on terrorism-related charges. Masri also has been indicted in the United States.

On Friday, Prime Minister Tony Blair announced broad changes to British policies and laws in an attempt to curb religious extremism, including the tightening of deportation regulations, banning clerics who incite violence and making “glorifying” terrorism a criminal offense. Parliament is expected to begin debating some of those initiatives as early as next month.

As more information about radical groups surfaces in Britain, particularly about how many members of groups advocating violence are receiving government benefits, public outrage here is growing.

The Sunday Times newspaper published an account of a reporter who spent two months posing as a recruit in a radical Muslim group in London. The group, known as the Savior Sect, is the successor to a group Blair said he would ban as part of his crackdown.

The Times quoted the group’s spiritual leader, Omar Bakri Mohammed, as calling the July 7 bombers “the fantastic four.” Another of the group’s leaders, a former electrician named Omar Brooks, was quoted as telling new recruits to “instill terror into the hearts” of non-Muslims and saying he did not wish to die “like an old woman” in bed, but rather, “to be blown into pieces.”

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